Why Superbugs Thrive In Hospitals

A deadly superbug outbreak in LA is terrifying locals. Why do people get so sick in hospitals?

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The recent outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria at the UCLA hospital caused by a strain of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, has many people concerned. According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CRE can lead to death in up to half of seriously infected patients. CRE is a kind of "superbug", a bacteria that evolves resistance to most antibiotics.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a growing epidemic, according to the CDC, mostly because too many doctors over-prescribe antibiotics and patients don't use them properly. We're also exposed to antibiotics that are overused in farm production. Scientists have been warning us about this for years and many fear that the UCLA incident could be the beginning of a deadly trend.

Why do disease outbreaks always seem to start at hospitals, which are supposed to be places of healing? The combination of high use of antibiotics and lots of sick people pack into one place, seems to be a breeding ground for them. Caregivers like nurses, can spread bacteria through touch. Sometimes these so-called super bugs can live on an instrument, like an endoscope, which is properly cleaned between procedures. It seems this is what went wrong in UCLA. Caregivers didn't realize the patients carried CRE and normal sanitization methods weren't enough to kill it.

So are you scared of super bugs? Let us know in the comments below.

Learn More:
Hard to Kill: Superbugs in Circulation (Discovery)
"More than 180 patients may have been exposed to the drug-resistant superbug called CRE at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center, reported the Los Angeles Times. Two patients have died. The hospital is notifying patients who were exposed to a medical scope that's difficult to disinfect. CRE is deadly in 40 to 50 percent of patients."

UCLA 'superbug' kills 2 people; 179 exposed (Al Jazeera America)
"Contaminated medical instruments are to blame for infecting seven patients, including two who died, with a potentially deadly 'superbug' at a Los Angeles hospital, officials said Wednesday."

A New Antibiotic Found in Dirt Can Kill Drug-Resistant Bacteria (Smithsonian)
"Tests in mice show that the new drug works against numerous nasty diseases and should stay viable for decades."

Antibiotics Can't Keep Up With 'Nightmare' Superbugs (NPR)
"We're used to relying on antibiotics to cure bacterial infections."